By: Sam Hunt
Issue date: 9/11/08 Section: Features
Blue Banner http://www.thebluebanner.net/
The seventh annual Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) hosted more than 30 bands from the Asheville area on Sunday amid dozens of other locals in the visual and performance arts.
“The idea is for everyone to create and be rewarded from that creation,” said Kitty Love, co-founder of LAAFF and executive director of non-profit arts promoter Arts2People. “Culture inspired by personal expression can be an economic engine. Amassing to the maximum number of dollars for personal equity is the goal of life.”
The all-local street festival blocked off Lexington Avenue from beneath the I-240 bridge to the College Street intersection. The street was packed with local artists, fans and families, some of whom wore zombie and circus costumes.
“It’s great to see 400 or so artists come together because all of their work is weird, quirky and unique to Asheville,” 21-year-old Moraea June said.
Joel Hutcheson, owner of Static Age Records on Lexington Avenue, said the festival is healthy for Asheville’s music scene and record stores.
“It’s a response to the Bele Chere festival in the sense that it spotlights local Asheville bands only,” Hutcheson said. “(LAAFF) also helps the record stores out. We don’t sell much more, but there is more generated interest.”
LAAFF attracted music lovers with three performance stages and a variety of genres. The Greenlife Electric Stage featured full-sized electric reggae, jazz and bluegrass, while the Mountain Express Performing Arts Stage hosted more stripped-down country, electronic and rock acts.
June said she preferred the Earth Fare BoBo Stage, which showcased acoustic world bands such as Cabo Verde and singer/songwriter Angi West.
“Angi West was the best artist of the festival,” June said. “There were three band members, but it was mostly Angi singing. She had a unique feminine presence unlike the rest of the bands that were almost exclusively male.”
Crystal Kind, a male four-piece reggae band, supported the legalization of marijuana on the Greenlife stage after their first song.
“Let’s legalize that medical marijuana,” singer/guitarist Ras Berhane said to the Lexington Ave. crowd. “They smoke it all day in California.”
Perhaps the most gripping band of the festival was The Broomstars, an experimental pop/rock band that formed seven years ago in Albuquerque, N.M. and relocated to Asheville in 2006.
The Broomstars stood out on the Mountain Express stage with a surplus of guitar equipment.
“We play around with noise more than most bands in Asheville,” said Broomstars guitarist Jeff Santiago. “We like to experiment with every dynamic to paint a distinct sonic palette.”
The Broomstars return to Lexington Avenue on Saturday for a show at the Emerald Lounge with the Silver Machine, an Asheville-based psychedelic electronic rock band.
“That’s the great thing about LAAFF and Asheville in general; there’s a huge sense of community and so many venues for such a small city,” Santiago said. “It’s hard not to find different types of music on the same bill.”
Rhys Baker, a sophomore student at UNC Asheville focusing on interdisciplinary ethics and social institutions, experienced LAAFF for the first time on Sunday.
“The festival really highlights local music and builds community,” Baker said. “There was a lot of different culture everywhere in sight. I loved the belly dancing and music.”